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Driving the Nash Quad

After the open house at Old Kingsbury Aerodrome on Memorial Day, 2001, I returned on Sunday to offer my services (such as they are) wherever I could be of use. I also mentioned that what I wanted to get out of the deal is experience in building/working on old airplanes, training in how to fly them, and also the chance to drive some of the antique ground equipment that Roger Freeman (owner of Old Kingsbury Aerodrome) uses. We chatted for a bit, and I helped straighten up a few things left over from the open house the day before, and then Roger made an offer.

He would let me drive the 1918 Nash QUAD 4WD 2-ton truck -- if I would start it. I agreed with alacrity. We walked over to it, and he explained the controls. Two foot pedals for clutch and brake, a heel-operated throttle, hand brake, and gearshift. There were also some controls on the steering column - a spark advance and a hand throttle, along with a choke lever.

As he started fiddling with the controls, I walked to the front of the QUAD and unclipped the starting handle from its storage mount on the bumper. I had read about an old, now seldom-seen medical condition known as a 'Ford fracture', so I asked Roger if the engine was likely to kick back. He said it didn't do that. This turned out to be a good thing, because I don't think I could have started it without a firm grip on the handle.

Roger said he was ready, and that most people had the best luck pushing over the top. I set the handle to that position, and pushed. The engine came up against the compression, and stopped. I backed up a bit, and pushed harder.

"Chuff". I tried again. "Chuff". I began to realize just why Roger had made this generous offer. Again. "Chuff". Again. And again, several times. Then, instead of going "Chuff", the QUAD went "Chuff.     Chuff   Chuff Chuff Chuff" and was running. It was surprisingly quiet. I stowed the handle in the bumper clip, and walked around to the driver's side. Roger was fiddling with the levers under the steering wheel. "Chuff Chuff Chuff   Chuff     Chuff       Chuff       Chu". Roger looked a little embarrassed, and I walked resignedly back out front and unshipped the starting handle again.

This time, it only took two tries to get it running. After stowing the handle, I walked back over and climbed up into the driver's seat. I do mean climbed. You mount this beast by stepping on the front wheel hub, stepping up to the top of the front tire, and then to the floor. The tires are solid rubber, by the way, and look to be original equipment from 1918. I settled in behind the wheel. The steering column comes straight up from the floor, and the wheel is pretty much horizontal. I stepped on the clutch, and Roger put it into first gear (it's got four speeds plus reverse). I moved my heel to the throttle, and tried it to see how responsive it was. With a bit of pressure, the sound went from "Chuff Chuff Chuff Chuff" to "ChuffChuffChuffChuff". I let the clutch out gently, and we were off. The clutch was very smooth and actually easier to handle than some cars I've driven.

The hangar we were going to was behind us, so I heaved on the steering wheel to turn. It heaved back, and the QUAD kept going straight ahead. I heaved again, and slowly we began to turn. I kept heaving, and quickly had the wheel up against the stop. The QUAD will never win prizes for maneuverability. We stayed in first gear, which had us moving at a brisk walking pace, and I steered us toward the hangar. Roger said to park it parallel to the door, which meant I had to turn once we were inside.

As we came through the door, we were pointed directly at the tail of Roger's Luscombe. As I started heaving on the steering wheel, I saw Roger take a firm grasp on the parking brake just in case! The QUAD responded, though, and we slowly turned until we were pointed directly at the Model T that was parked in the hangar. I straightened out the steering, and applied the clutch and brake to stop us just as Roger had asked - parallel to the door.

Roger reached over and moved the two levers under the steering wheel. I noticed about now that there was no ignition switch. Roger moved both levers full forward. "Chuff Chuff Chuff Chuff". He moved them full aft. "Chuff Chuff Chuff Chuff". He split them, and tried each one full forward or back independently. "Chuff Chuff Chuff Chuff". He looked at me. I looked at him. I said, "We could try choking it to death". He motioned toward the choke lever, and I pulled it full on. "Chuff Chuff Chuff Chuff Chuff       Chuff         Chuff             Chu". I waited a moment longer, then let the clutch out. Roger applied the parking brake. (I found out later that the proper way to stop the engine is to pull both levers all the way back and wait. The engine will stop in about 30 seconds.)

As we dismounted, Roger noticed that a turnbuckle was missing, and that as a result we were missing a wheel brake. We had enough, luckily. I spent some time walking around and looking at various things, and noticed the data plates mounted on the front wall. The QUAD weighs about 4000 pounds, and can carry about 2000 pounds of load. Apparently you could buy one with any sort of body you wanted, including none, since the weight of the chassis and the weight of the body are listed separately in defining the max vehicle weight and max load. Another plate lists the top speed - 15 mph. We didn't get anywhere near that in my short drive, but next time I may actually try shifting gears!